Queen Mine

Behold the entrance to the Queen Mine, a labyrinth of old mine shafts below Bisbee, Arizona, that produced six billion dollars worth of copper, gold, silver, lead, and zync between 1870 and 1970. Now a museum, it's one of the best mine tours in the country, if you're into these kinda things. We are, so kick back and join us as we descend 1,500 feet into the bowels of one of the most famous mines in North America.

For twelve bucks admission, they gave us slickers and hard hats with a headlight, just like the miners wore. Then everyone jumped on a little train, just like the kind you see kiddies riding at the mall during Christmas (except it was made out of metal and not plastic) and off we went into the darkness.

About 200 feet inside the mountain, our tour guide stopped the mini-train and asked if everyone was okay and said now was the time to speak if claustrophobia was taking over. We were doing just fine until the power of suggestion kicked in; suddenly we were stricken with unwanted thoughts about earthquakes and recent mine tradgedies and bad earth gas. This lasted for 30 seconds or so, until we smiled at the thought of how much our attorneys could sue this place for in event of a catastrophe.

Claustrophobia can be a spooky headspace, for sure. We've never succumbed to it, but have witnessed other people suddenly wig out when trapped inside a confined space. Matter of fact, just a couple of days prior at the Titan II missile museum (see below posting), some dude freaked while in the launch control room and had to be rushed out. In our opinion, the Queen Mine, with its rotten timber cribbing holding up narrow shafts filled with dank air offered 100x the impetus for someone to go bat shit.

Our tour guide stopped several times along the way, including a huge cavern called a stope, where miners had removed thousands of tons of rock to access a rich vein of copper ore. We took some photos but the cavern was so massive and dark, nothing turned out. Here we have the guide explaining how the blasting process occurred: holes were drilled 7 feet into rock and filled with sticks of TNT. Then Kaboom! The next several hours would be spent loading blasted rock onto outgoing train carts and building cribbing to support the walls from caving in. Working in the mine was a constant cycle of drilling holes, blowing up rock, hauling out the rock, and then hauling in timbers to keep the ceiling from dropping on everyone.

Over its 100 year operation, the Queen Mine produced 8,032,352,000 lbs of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 lbs of lead and 371,945,900 lbs of zinc. No exact figure exists on how much poop was hauled out over the century of operation, but this butt dropper cart, with dual leather seating and foot rest, probably carried away more nuggets in one week than all the silver and gold combined.



Twenty miles north of the Mexico border you'll find Tumacácori National Historic Park, a Jesuit mission founded by Spanish Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1691 and the location a bloody O'odham Indian uprising in 1751.

Inside, a cross made of flowers adorns the crumbling chancel wall.

Outside, a grave with no name is covered in stones.

At Casa Grande National Monument, the eroding walls from a 13th century Hohokam Indian village are the only remaining sign of an ancient civilization that flourished for centuries before disappearing into the folds of history.

Now a ghost town, Fairbank on the San Pedro River was a once a thriving depot town during the height of the silver and copper mining era in the late 1800's.


Desert Cemetary

A purple kitten greets visitors.

Storm clouds crest above the angels of Journey.

Some graves are remarkable spartan.

Some graves are remarkably ornate.

None have headstones, only simple wooden crosses.

Framed by distant mountians.


San Xavier Mission

A Tohono Indian girl sits in front of the San Xavier Mission, also called "The White Dove of the Desert."

The mission was founded in 1699 by Spanish Priest Eusebio Francisco Kino.

The serpent door handle reminds parishoners that sin lurks everywhere.

A lion stands guard before the white cross of calvary.


Titan of War

Buried in the desert south of Tucson sits the only remaining Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile site in the United States. Once the backbone of the United States nuclear missile arsenal, the Titans were made obsolete by the Minuteman series (500 Minuteman IIIs are presently located in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming) as well as nuclear weapons on submarines and heavy bombers. Following the signing of the Salt II Treaty in 1982, sixty Titan II sites in Arizona, Arkansas, and Nebraska were decomissioned and all the missiles, except for this one, were removed from their silos and dismantled. Today, USAF Titan Missile Complex 571-7 is a museum to a Cold War relic from the era when peace was never fully won; it was only kept minute to minute.

Above ground, there isn't much to see, other than a huge cement door on tracks. Since the other Titan silos were dynamited into rubble piles after the Salt II Treaty, one of the requirements for establishment of the Titan museum (other than removal of the warhead) was placement of barriers on the tracks so the door could not be opened. Russian satelites watching from high above regularly check on the site to make sure no funny business is taking place. Not that sneaking one additional missile into the current U.S. arsenal of 3,700 nuclear weapons would make much of a difference, but hey, an agreement is an agreement.

Five stories below the surface is the launch control center. Protected by concrete walls several feet thick and steel blast doors weighing 6,000 pounds, the room is designed to withstand either a direct hit from an incoming warhead or accidental explosion of the bad boy sitting 250 feet away.

Another fascinating engineering feature was how the entire complex sits suspended on massive springs. A necessary component, when you consider over 400,000 pounds of thrust would be pushing an object weighing 270,000 pounds out of a hole in the ground.

A total of four airmen would be inside the complex at any given time. Every 12 hours, two man crews would rotate duty at the control center. Had the relationship between Moscow and Washington DC ever spiraled into Def Con 1, a series of numbers and letters would be transmitted over the speaker atop the control panel. Both airmen would write the code in notebooks. They would then switch notebooks and the code was read again.

The airmen would then open this cabinet (each had the combination to one of the locks) and compare the launch code to the codes inside. If there was a match, a numerical code would be revealed. This number was entered into the control panel and unlocked a butterfly valve inside the booster rocket of the missile, allowing the propellant fuels to combine for ignition and lift off. Then the airmen would simultaneously turn the launch key at their stations and thirty minutes later, the warhead would reach its target. Both men carried .38 revolvers on their belts, in the event the threat of force was necessary to ensure the launch order was followed to completion.

The Titan II carried the largest thermonuclear warhead ever deployed in the U.S. arsenal. With a yield of 9 megatons, the Titan II warhead had 700 times more power than Little Boy, the first nuclear bomb used in WWII (15 kilotons). The blast alone from a Titan II warhead would result in a fireball 1 mile wide lasting 12 seconds. The radiated heat could be fatal to a 20 mile radius. Blast effects would collapse most residential and industrial structures within a 10 mile radius. Within 3.5 miles, virtually all above-ground structures would be destroyed and blast effects would inflict near 100% fatalities. Envisioning the destruction these weapons can render is mind boggling, especially when you consider some 27,000 active nuclear weapons are currently deployed throughout the world.

If a launch ever occurred, the crews had 30 days of food and water and perhaps two weeks of oxygen within the complex. At some point, they would have to enter a new world, a nuclear world. And they would've been among the very few people on earth still alive.


South by Southwest

We've just returned from a glorious week in southern Arizona, and hewww doggies, do we have some good stuff on the way. In no particular order, upcoming posts will include:

1. The Tucson Gem Show
2. A tour of the only ICBM site in the world open to the public
3. Spanish missions founded in the 16th century
4. Old ghost towns and abandoned ruins from 13th century civilizations
5. An abandoned copper mine
6. Tombstone, AZ (home to the famous shootout at the OK corral)
7. Random scenery, like this photo of a grandaddy Saguaro cactus from the outskirts of Tucson.

We're glad to be back posting original material for you. As much as we enjoy occasional diversions about postcards and whatnot, our goal has always been to provide an authentic mix of words and photographs.

But that is often easier said than done, especially in the winter when there's just not a lot happening. We've opted to avoid the Filler Trap (posting about personal minutae, political and religous musings, and private matters better kept secret) so many other blogs fall into and instead share our perceptions about time and place and the absurd and the sublime, spiced up with RR guerilla photography. We'll never have advertising here, nor will we ever charge an access fee (not because we wouldn't like to make some extra dough, mind you. But with all of thirty daily readers, most of whom being people we know- a money truck this site will never be). We're having fun though and that's all that matters so thank you for your loyal patronage and occasional comments and emails.

Here are some teasers from our trip to the southwest:

A ferruginous hawk takes wing from an earthly perch.

Jesus stands below a cliffside shrine to the recently (and not so recently) departed.

Mexican woman making tortillas over an open fire.

Heavy metal angels hover above a garden in Bisbee, AZ.

Memorial to Army Indian scouts at Fort Huachuca, AZ.

This is what Nogales, Mexico looks like. Avoid at all costs, unless you like skeevy towns that smell of pollution and raw sewage. Walking the streets of Nogales is like being transported to the third world, within fifty yards of the United States. Pharmacies sell all sorts of drugs that can only obtained with perscriptions in the US and trinket shops peddle everything from fake Cuban cigars to ostrich leather cowboy boots. On the sidewalks, below dangling live powerlines swinging in the breeze, circus barkers yelled at us to come inside their stores or encounter bandidos around the corner (we kept walking and saw no bandidos). At one Mexican blanket store, the proprietor led us to the back where a bottle of brown tequila with no label sat on a table and offered to pour us a few shots. Uh, no thanks, we replied, that shit looks like used turpentine. At all the businesses we visited, employees followed us like we were kleptomaniacs intent on stealing their fake Gucci purses or Corona salt and pepper shakers. We quickly became discourged with shopping in Nogales and sought refuge at the historic Hotel Regis for a couple of Tecates with lime wedges, and laughed about this crazy place, south of the border.


More RR 1970's Ad Mania

Seeing how you're looking at RR again, either you're at work bored senseless or suffering from insomnia. How 'bout we kill some time with another batch of absurd old magazine advertisements, like this 1977 ad for the Marantz 2500, the world's most powerful receiver. With a retail price of $1,595, this audio marvel boasted features like a Toroidal Power Transformer, a tunnel "pin fin" heat sink, and full complentary symmetry direct-coupled output. Added to the gooble-dee-gook is the 18 db per octave 15 hz sub-sonic Butterworth low filter and a dual-gate MOS FET FM front end. Wow. Imagine, though, what $1,600 of 1977 stock in Apple would be worth today. We'd prefer that over the Marantz 2500, thank you very much.

This 1975 cigarette ad of a young Farrah Fawcett look-alike, straight faced and trying her hardest to look older than 18 and a half, would surely be banned in 2008. I learned about smoking by trying different cigarettes, it reads. Winston may not be where you start. But when your taste grows up, Winston is for real. Winston sure knew how to attract new consumers from the Charlie's Angels era, eh?

Back when Gerald Ford was President, telephone technology was just beginning to go hi-tech. The phone on the upper left is an ancestor of the modern day cell phone, the Pulsar II Mobile Telephone Control Head for car or boat. Price: $890, not including antenna and transmitter/receiver. Since there were no cell phone towers or even dedicated frequencies for their use, this ad harkens us to the age when communications technology was transitioning between switchboards and operators to the modern era of Blackberries and Skype.

Speaking of hi-tech, look at this car-component Supersystem: the Pioneer KPC 9000. Priced at only $582.70, it comes with a GM-40 20 watt component power amplifier that delivers 10 watts RMS minimum per channel (both channels drive) into 4 ohms from 60 to 20,000 Hz with no more than 0.8% THD. Whatever. It still sounded like shit compared to today's technology. But when you're playing Hall and Oates, what difference does the quality make?

Now here's a clothing item no one admits to ever wearing: the Sears Thumbs Up Couduroy Jeans. With the long-wearing ruggedness of polyester. Perma-prest, too to keep things neat. Fortunately for all of the free world, the Thumbs Up Jeans went extinct as quickly as the Sears Stretcho Waist Jeans.

Another staple of seventies fashion were the boots. And the bigger the heel, the thicker the leather, and the fatter the toe, the better. Check out these embossed American Eagles, yours for only $16.95 (if you enclose a bottom flap from a pack of Camel Filters). Here we see a couple of hikers taking a break along a stream bank, and no doubt the guying wearing the blister-makers is hating life and wishing a pair of Adidas were on his aching dogs instead of these loads.

Speaking of loads, here we see OJ sporting a pair of Dingos.


Advertising the Seventies

We recently came across a pile of old magazines from the time when disco music polluted the airwaves, men grew bad mustaches, and cars were built to break down as soon as they got paid off. Yes, we're talking the early 1970s. Looking at the advertising from this bygone era illuminates and contrasts how tastes and preferences of society change over time. Take, for example, this ad for Salem cigarettes, where a fish jumps as a fisherman paddles his canoe while choking down a cancer stick. Springtime! It happens every Salem. The small print reads Natural menthol. That's what gives Salem a taste as soft and fresh as Springtime. So smoking a Salem cigarette equates to the joy a fresh spring day. Quite the leap, eh?!

Here's a real deal: join the Stereo Tape Club of America and you'll get a free 8 track stereomatic player, speakers not included! The only stipulation is you'll need to purchase at least six cassettes now and one a month for the next year. With selections like Now I am Woman, The Best of Wilson Pickett, and Led Zeppelin III, how could anyone refuse such an offer!

Thirty years ago, dull sounding 8 tracks were the tip of the spear when it came to audio technology. No doubt few people, if any, envisioned a day when 10,000 songs could be played from a device the size of a business card holder. No doubt we have no comprehension what the technology will be in 2038.

For whatever reason, in the 1970's, nearly all cigarette ads were in color. And nearly all other products were displayed in black and white. Not sure why... were profit margins for the tobacco companies prior to the billion dollar settlements of the 1990's large enough to pay for color advertising when no one else could? Or is the message a subliminal one: you know, smoking makes the world a more colorful place? We dunno.

Notice the shift in marketing from the lone canoeist crossing a placid lake in the Salem ad. Instead, we see a nicely dressed couple wearing glasses enjoying a Viceroy as they read a passage from a musty tome. Browsing through a bookstall. Peeking in the past. Maybe they'll even find a signed Ernest Hemingway. Their cigarette? Viceroy. They won't settle for less. It's a matter of taste. The target group must be the literate intellectuals, or people who think they're literate intellectuals: smoke Viceroy, and people will think yer smart.

The Hot Comb from Remington. Now this is a product you don't see anymore, thank goodness. The small print reads You probably didn't realize it. At least not all at once. But life for men was changing. Ties were getting wider, waists were getting narrower, and hair was getting longer. The trouble was, that along with more hair you got something you didn't need or want: more problems. The Hot Comb is Remington's answer for more hair. What it does is dry your hair. And while it's doing that it does a lot of other things. Like shape it. And take out the lumps, the wings, and the cowlicks. It can even make dumb waves disappear, or make idiot curls go straight.

Wow. The Hot Comb is one heavy duty man primping tool. We hope the day never comes where we own one. Unfortunately, the indicators of long hair returning to vogue are beginning to show: the neighbor kid who shovels our driveway has a mop that resembles Leif Garrett, circa 1978. At the local mall last weekend, we noticed several high schoolers with long manes of hair wapped in thin bandanas at the forehead, looking like characters from a Freak Brothers comic book. Fads are cyclical, yes indeed. We just wish styled manhair stayed buried in the past forever.

Postscript: after posting, we noticed the model for the Hot Comb looked familiar. Click on the ad and see if you can guess who's pitching this fashion tool. Clue: he's played a young Godfather, a Deer Hunter, and a Raging Bull.

Here's another cigarette ad (having a tobacco account must've been the career goal of every 5th Avenue sales rep). The party's over and they've all gone home and at last it's quiet and no more people thank goodness and... This... is the L&M moment. Holy smokes! Is the tension ever palpable in that run-on sentence. The implied message: entertaining friends is hard work. Hosting a party is stressful. Let L&M ease your world after a long night of serving h'or derves and martinis. You deserve it, you exhausted party hostess you.

This is an advertisement we'd like to see again: a $1,990 car. Loaded too: no extra costs for all-vinyl, foam padded bucket seats, nylon carpeting, and two-speed windshield wipers on this Datsun. Looking through the stack of old magazines, one thing we noticed is cars were cheap and electronic gadgets were expensive. Reel to reel tape recorders and 35mm cameras cost $1,000 but $2,000 got you a new car. Today, we have the inverse: economy cars go for $20,000 and 10 megapixel cameras and Ipods cost under $200. It's not right.

Now here's a blast from the past: a listing of restaurants in metro Detroit, circa 1971. Only two jumped out at us as still operating: The St. Clair Inn is a nice place and Porter Street Station continues to eke out a enough of a profit to stay open in post-Tiger Stadium Corktown. We remember Ciungan's Shrimp House in Ecorse, a throwback to the steel era when the titans of industry ruled Downriver from dark rooms with cigar drenched carpeted walls like Ciungan's and Sibley Gardens. And the Top of the Pontch was the place to go to impress a first date in high school. Ah, the memories.


'Toon Cards

It's snowing like crazy today, no better excuse to show you a sampling of postcards from our cartoon section. Some are funny, some make no sense, and others reflect a time when cartoon postcards were cheap advertising for products long gone from the market place. Like Old Reliable Hell on Earth Whiskey, Their slogan in 1909 was If Whiskey interferes with your business, give up your business. No use trying to do two things at once. Whoever came up with that catchy little jingle for a brand of rot gut rye deserves a Clio Award!

Some old product cards have slogans that don't make sense. If your radio set does not seem right, see what this soap will do; it's been found effective many a time, but no offence to you! What the hell does this mean? Doesn't the tone seem a little condescending? Did consumers back in the day enjoy these petty insults in advertising? We dunno.

This card shows an old battle axe staring angrily at clouds of smoke coming from a restroom. Hey, just relax and let the old man have a Pall Mall and a BM and you'll be on the road in no time. Sent to Mr. E. H. Price of Topeka, Kansas on August 3, 1952, it reads Dear Ed & the gang- Just made it to Rapid City. Seeing some lovely scenery and I stop when I get hungry or tired. Take care of things. Guy.

"Stopped Here For The 'Weak' End!" This card was sent by Pvt. Edw. Siantz, 590th T.S.S., Kessler Field, MS, on November 3, 1942, to Mr. Valentine Smutek at the Herman Kiefer Hospital in Detroit, the message reads Well I'm still here in Miss. There's talk of moving but nothing has happened. Haven't had any drilling even you could be here and get by with your back. Hope you're getting along fine. Eddie.

Pvt. Siantz promoted to Aviation Cadet Siantz and sent this cartoon postcard of a fire hydrant spraying a dog to Valentine Smutek in June 21, 1943. How are you today? I caught up with a bit of letter writing this morning and then went to the show and then we went swimming. I suppose you had your visitors and I only hope that JK were one of them. That's all for tonight. Good luck, Eddie.

Our final card from Aviation Cadet Siantz to Mr. Smutek was this cartoon machine gunner promising to fight as long as the letters keep coming. Mailed from Selma Field, Monroe, LA, on November 20, 1943, it reads, How are you feeling today? Maybe you're home by this time because I haven't heard from Virg for a week now because of my changing comps. I do hope that you are home now or will be soon. They are changing the system here and so we have to change barracks this afternoon. Good luck. Eddie.

A Google search produced some additional information: Aviation Cadet Siantz eventually became US Army Air Corps 1st Lieutenant Siantz and flew a B 24 bomber on bombing missions over Italy during the end of WWII (hopefully, the bombs from his aircraft didn't land on the Catacombs at Cappucinni. See previous postings for more on that). We believe we located a valid address in Florida and the cards have been mailed to him. They belong with their rightful owner, not us.

This card show a stick figure man fishing, reading, golfing, getting a sun tan, and drinking beer. Makes for a full day when you can engage in all those activities.

We'll close with this cartoon of a man pulling on the back of his head while holding an unhappy baby. I love my wife but no more kids. Mailed to Mr. W. Fisher in Rhinelander, WI, on August 22, 1910, a message scribbled in pencil reads Put on your old gray bonnet Let me call you sweet heart I'm in love with You. Bea. Bea, now listen and listen good: when you send your man a card with a picture like this on the front, your message of honey and roses gets negated instantly.

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